My event was supposed to be an exercise of “I can climb back to doing this well.” Due to a two year period of peculiar medical things and lackluster race results, I wanted to have a race where I could feel myself running as I should. Completing a marathon competently, as I know I can. I had done the training through the hot summer months, and now I was getting favorable weather for this race. Hints and forecasts of rain for Sunday morning never materialized, but overcast skies and mid 50 degree temps did. This was going to be good!
My AirBnB, “Hotel Cinderella,” was in the Mehlingdramm area of Kreuzburg – a lively community of shops and restaurants. It is NOT where tourists or the marathon travel companies would have you reside. It’s an easy to reach spot on the U6 subway. Popping out of the train is fun in this area, as I’m always met by a line of hungry patrons queueing up at Mustafa’s Germaise kebabs. This spot is also on the run course, between 19 km & 20 km. The landmark is a large church with two green copper spires. I expected to see Pete and Sandra here. We spoke about it the night before after finishing a great Italian dinner in this very neighborhood.
I woke up and already had most of my things ready for the race from the night before – all that was needed was putting Body Glide on my feet, underarm areas, and crotch. It wasn’t too cold out but I brought throw away clothes. I had a warm pair of sweatpants from the local thrift shop, and a dated “Run 4 The Pies” long sleeve shirt. I didn’t need gloves, which was good – by not using them I discovered I’d need those later on for the rest of my trip. I gathered my things, including a Maurten 320 drink for the time before the race and a “The Right Stuff” drink in a disposable bottle to carry with me once the race began. This course seemed to have less frequent water stations as compared to what I;’m used to, plus I like to skip the first one or two and the craziness that happens early in the run. No sun out meant no sunglasses. My PBRR visor would serve that purpose for me if it did get sunny. I had tried to give my visor’s headband a stretching leading up to race day but it didn’t work. This one always feels tight on my head after about an hour of wearing it. Not a worry I thought, by that time something legs & run related would probably have my attention more so than the visor.
I took two subways to Jen’s Marriott hotel, she was ready and waiting to go. Her place was close to the start/finish area, but still we had to do a walk around the Tiergarten park area to enter and get into the proper corrals. This was easy. We each used a portable toilet first, then went down paths & trails until we came out at the Start line. Time was 8:15 am, an hour before we were supposed to be there. It wasn’t crowded, so we went back onto the park paths, jogged around, and tried to “convince” the need for any additional bathroom breaks to come forward. As close as we were to the C corral and the Start line, I wouldn’t have thought I could slip into the woods to pee and not be seen by others, but it worked! Having Jen to banter with and see things with was great. She was in a good mindset for her race – no concerns for either of us as we waited for the start.
The wheelchair races and hand crank divisions started considerably earlier than our wave. We were supposed to launch at 9:15 am, it was probably 10 minutes later than that when we made our way up through the corral to the Start line. There was plenty of music and energy for the start. Our first mile rolled right down the main street towards the Victory Column, where the runners ran around each side of the traffic circle. I knew Pete & Sandra said they’d be at the very first turn on the course, at 2.7 km. That was easy to spot, even as my watch is in miles and all course markings were in kms. I yelled to them before they saw me but I caught both of their eyes early enough to get a wave and a “Hey” out of them. It is exciting to see someone you know on the course. Especially 4000 miles from home!
I was comfortable running in the early miles, glimmers of sun came through as we went among buildings on the west and north of the city. There were enough people on a 3 lane wide road to make it something you had to think about if you wanted to pass people and stay on pace. I also was aware of the many trolley tracks carved into the surface of the road. No holes to get my feet caught in, but I’d rather step over them (than on them) to be safe. My first paces were good – near the 7:15 minute per mile speed I wanted to stay on. Sometimes I ran on the vacant gutter area near the curb to keep my rhythm and pace true, other times I went near the 3 stripe blue race line where others were running. I saw some people doing what I was doing, I recognized something about their outfit or had a similar reason to remember who they were. These are the things that dance in your head when you’re running a marathon!
The course was crowded in some areas where recent construction was present – Race officials told us about this. I kept the 7:15-7:20 pace though as many of the miles as I could. One or two miles I remembered dipped into the mid 7:20s before we got to the halfway point. I was having a good run, my pace and breathing were manageable. I used the Maurten 160 drink when I saw it – starting at the 9-10 km area. I was surprised to see that the water stations used rigid plastic cups. This made me wonder, as I thought they had such an interest in the environment et. al. The cups had “made with recycled materials” printed on them, yet they were not easy to crimp for drinking. They also did not collapse easily when discarded, the were slippery on the wet roads, not an ideal solution. I carried the bottle I started with for nearly 10 miles. I used it for sipping The Right Stuff fluid, plus I drank water and Maurten on the course where it was provided.
In the whole event I took three Maurten gels – mixing them in when I felt it would be good. One (caffeine flavored) was before 10 km and the other two were after the halfway point. The fueling worked well even with the hard plastic cups, I was glad to have Maurten drink provided on the course.
I looked forward to seeing Pete & Sandra at my Mehringdamm neighborhood, but I ran by and didn’t see them. I thought a 7:15 pace was the target for a 3:12 marathon – apparently not. I reached the halfway 21 km marker in 1:36:xx. I understood why I wasn’t at 1:35 for my time because the crowd I was running among and around in the first half did not allow me to run the course efficiently. I was near the 3 striped blue line but not running the course well for distance and tangents. I was more concerned with how my legs, lungs and stomach felt. All were in good shape, one foot was feeling some dull pinches on its bottom, but I was good with that. I spent time trying to guess ahead as to when the next km sign would come. Would it be at the next traffic light I see up there? By that tall building? This was a good distraction. I can do the kms to miles math in my head, but a glance at my watch showed me the miles anyway.
The course circles the center of the city and returns back to streets I am somewhat familiar with. In the later miles 19-23, I found I was in a neighborhood I had visited before the race looking for an Adidas Factory store. I saw the subway station I used to travel to that area – now I was here on foot! It was easy to do on the train, I thought – now just run back. There won’t be much of the course left if I can get from this area to Potsdamer Platz, where Jen’s hotel was and where I should see Pete & Sandra. I felt my legs getting heavier but was still able to keep the pace. I felt good as I knew I had less than 35 minutes to go and no issues. I ran through Potsdamer Platz and saw Pete & Sandra on the right side. We didn’t have a plan to meet after the race, but I had told Jen if we can’t meet up at the finish area, just get back to her hotel. I ran and told this to them as they cheered for me to go – only 3 kms left, less than 2 miles!
Now the route rolled back through the center of the city. We had already had a peek at the Brandenburg Gate if you knew to look left down the road in front of the Ritz Carlton Hotel. That’s near the finish, so I shouldn’t have too much further to go I thought. My watch still showed me running at good paces, but that reading was fluttering high & low among the buildings. We ran east until finally a turn north, into more buildings and shade. Then we made a left turn that I knew had us heading towards the finish line. But just not yet. We were a block away from the main street that held the Brandenburg Gate and the additional 300 meters to the Finish line. Because the Brandenburg Gate is so large, it appears closer than it truly is. Add in the extra distance all of my weaving in an out of people, and here I was. My watch saying I’m at 26 miles but I’m not under the gate yet. It’s getting sunny right in time for my finish and I can hear the announcer calling names plus music and a loud crowd ahead! I am with a good group of people, this is a heavy area of spectators on both sides, it’s good! More energetic music was playing and I had a few more meters to the finish line. All done and I am in at 3:13:30. I am surprised when I see this, I really thought I was evenly paced in the second half of the race. I am definitely pleased with this one – no issues and I feel good at the finish, legs, lungs and stomach.
I got my medal and thanked some of the volunteers. I took and drank a water and I tried to mill around waiting to catch Jen coming behind me. If she was on her goal pace, she should be right here I presumed. I was talking to people, moving around in the finish area, but no sign of Jen. I saw a cardboard sign taped to a pole that read, “New world record 2:01:09.” Ok, that was good, I know who won the men’s race. I asked two lady volunteers, “Who won the women’s race,” but neither of them knew. I am led out of the corral area to the post race zone – I had to return my chip (Yes, untying my shoes to give it back) and get my runner’s poncho for not opting to use pre race bag check.
I found out that the exit is near where we came in to the Start area, so I followed the big crowd in that direction. I’m walking fine, no cramps or differences between my left & right legs. They have organized how to allow people to cross the final bit of roadway right in front of the Brandenburg Gate without disrupting the race. I waited for the runners to gap, the volunteers did their thing with ropes and cones and I successfully crossed the course. It was just a ½ mile walk in sunny conditions to Jen’s hotel where Pete and Sandra were waiting in the lobby. Jen got my text messages once she came out of the finish area and she met us there, also.
I enjoyed this race and its importance to me. I felt like It was “me” running the course, not the person that experienced odd races since early 2020. I’d come back and do this one again – The course is flat and the weather was really conducive to getting a fast time. I was in control from start to finish. I can now concentrate on further improvement to bring my best times down even further. What I did to prepare for this race worked well, the learning process continues, 60 marathons later!